WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 28, 2011, 09:41 AM

Otter Tail County officials, volunteers prepare for the unknown

Battle Lake, Minn. (WDAY TV) - For the first time in more than 25-years, major flooding is expected in Otter Tail County. The Otter tail River is flowing at record levels and with spring runoff expected to be bad, they are preparing for the worst and the unknown.

Unlike the Red River Valley, extensive flood plain studies haven't been done on the Pelican and Otter Tail Rivers. So county officials don't even know what major flood stage will be. Today, volunteers around the county are getting a jump start on fighting the unknown and this is only the beginning.

Not a lake, or a river, even overland flooding threatens the city of Battle Lake this year. Still dozens here are spending the day filling sandbags by hand.

TAMMY BOWMAN - Helping Sandbag: “You need to lose some poundage before summer."

Tammy Bowman drove 39-miles from Elizabeth to help fill bags. To her surprise, all the sand was far from a day at the beach.

TAMMY BOWMAN - Helping Sandbag: "The Sandbagging is a lot of work. Its a lot more work than I thought it was going to be, I thought it was going to be more automated."

Like this one in Battle Lake, 3 other sites in the county have been set up so volunteers can come and fill sandbags. A flood fighting effort some have not seen in more than 30-years working with Otter Tail County.

KAY BROWN - Retired County Worker: "No, not here. I have never seen anything like it.”

More than 50-volunteers are cranking out more than 2-thousand filled sandbags. It is a task that couldn't come soon enough for the county.

Kay Brown: "Well what comes to mind? I'm glad were getting prepared ahead of time because we really don't know what this event will bring for us."

The biggest concern here is the Pelican and Otter Tail Rivers, which are expected to rise to record levels this year which is a rare occurrence and no one knows how high the water is going to rise.

Tammy Bowman: "This is really strange, that’s why we had to come here and help bag because it’s so new, and different."

So, for Tammy Bowman about the only thing she knows for sure is that a hard days work will bring one quiet night.

Tammy Bowman: "Oh I think all of us will sleep well tonight."